By Sarah Vogelsong
Port Royal’s post office has been in almost continuous operation since its establishment in 1766, but residents fear that their community’s institution may have reached the end of the road.
This past May, the U.S. Postal Service sent a notice to town residents that a meeting would be held at the post office Tuesday, July 8 at 2 p.m. to discuss four options: the first would keep the post office open but reduce its operating times from eight to six hours per weekday. The other three options are all based on the USPS conducting a discontinuance survey and would offer the alternatives of replacing the post office with roadside mailbox delivery and a rural carrier, the establishment of a village post office, and the transference of P.O. box service to another post office.
USPS also sent surveys to a sample of residents served by the Port Royal post office.
A spokeswoman for USPS stated in an email that the Port Royal post office is not closing and that it is under Post Plan, a cost-cutting program implemented in 2012 under which roughly 14,000 post offices around the country are being considered for reduced hours or closure.
Nevertheless, some residents are worried that the meeting is only the first step in a process toward closure.
“We’ve had a post office in this town since the beginning of this town,” said Mayor Nancy Long. “Not only (would) they (be) taking a service away, they’d be taking a piece of our history.”
Port Royal postmaster Chris Hawkins estimates that the Port Royal office serves two to three times the number of residents in the town, since many customers come from King George or other places. Many residents have a P.O. box at the office, and a highway contract route carrier operates from there.
Hawkins also stated that the USPS sets revenue goals and “generally, we’ve always met or exceeded the goals.”
Some residents who lack transportation options will find it difficult to access postal services if they are forced to travel all the way to King George or Bowling Green, said both Hawkins and Long.
If the Port Royal office is closed, Hawkins said, “there will be no full-time post offices between Tappahannock and King George.”